*The Secret Notes of Lady Kanoko Book 1 — Best of 2011

It’s always a pleasure when you hear someone recommend a book, you try it, and you like it, perhaps even more than they did. But thankfully, that’s what happened when I tried The Secret Notes of Lady Kanoko.

The Secret Notes of Lady Kanoko Book 1 cover
The Secret Notes of
Lady Kanoko Book 1
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Kanoko is adorable, to start, with a rounded bob haircut, glasses, and an extreme dislike of her age group. Each chapter features her indulging in her favorite pastime: watching her classmates and recording their feelings and actions. She treats them as her soap opera, only she winds up getting dragged into their interactions. While she’s congratulating herself on her objectivity and powers of observation, we see how much she’s also swayed by the right word or the thoughtful gesture. She praises herself for choosing to have no friends, but it’s making a virtue of necessity.

Don’t worry for her, though, because Kanoko also has a habit of finding herself involved in her little experiments. I like that, for all Kanoko is her own little bundle of cliches, she rips the lid off the standard shojo stereotypes, with little patience for game-playing. Among other situations, here she takes on the obnoxious teacher, the artsy type seeking to be the center of attention, and the plain girl who wants a makeover to catch the cute boy. Some of Kanoko’s behavior reminded me of fandom, with her lists and notebooks and her lack of patience for those who don’t understand her shorthand nicknames for those she watches. She’s suspicious and sarcastic and plain-spoken, all of which makes her endearing to me.

I loved seeing someone so geeky and non-normal as a heroine, both because I had sympathy pangs from my own younger days and because she’s refreshing in comparison to all the happy non-distinguished girls. Her uniqueness stems from a strong, individual personality. Plus, as an adult, you’ll get another level of humor from knowing what’s really happening in place of Kanoko’s younger suppositions. Her lack of patience with the social conventions isn’t quite as high-minded as she pretends, but it’s all funny just the same.

I thought, when I first heard that she moves schools and meets a whole new group of people in the second chapter, that it would seem artificial (in order to allow the artist to repeat her gimmick) or disappointing (since we’d miss the characters we’d briefly gotten to know). Neither is true. A new cast allows for new observations and more openings for humor. Kanoko’s cynicism allows for her to be leery of what she sees as “friendship games”, but it’s important to learn that not everyone is pretending just for popularity or advancement. There’s also the possibility of true friendship, and that’s what gives The Secret Notes of Lady Kanoko its heart.

10 Comments

  1. I’m so pleased that you liked this! :)

  2. Thank you so much for pointing it out! It was a lot of fun, and I’m eager to see the second volume.

  3. Everything you said. She stands out in a sea of happy, go-lucky girls.

  4. I’ve read the first volume recently, and I really liked it. (It sort of reminded me of Harriet the Spy, but Kanoko is a genuinely sweet kid at heart and from what I remember, Harriet was an incredible brat.)

  5. I loved this immediately too! It’s just so ridiculous, but so fun to read! I couldn’t help laughing at how Kanoko rips the curtain away to expose the cliche machinations around her, but at the same time finds herself falling in step with them, albeit in a backwards way. I also laughed at how she keeps changing schools – so terribly unsustainable for a continuing series! But at least it only continues for 3 volumes, and never commits the cardinal sin of not being fun. I’m deeply disappointed that the third volume will likely never see translation in print now that TokyoPop has gone under, and even more heartbroken to discover this late that there’s currently a sequel to this series in Japan!

  6. [...] titles, I’m disappointed to see no more Stellar Six, no more Suppli, and especially no more Lady Kanoko, which would have been complete with the next book, or Aria, rescued from ADV Manga. Michelle Smith [...]

  7. [...] Alex’s choices are good ones — in addition to Stellar Six, he’s previously covered the adorable Stolen Hearts and my favorite of the three he’s written about so far, The Secret Notes of Lady Kanoko (which is only missing one volume to complete). In case you’d like to see my comments on these series, here they are: Stolen Hearts, Stellar Six, Lady Kanoko [...]

  8. [...] you’ve missed the enjoyable Secret Notes of Lady Kanoko series, A Devil and Her Love Song is a more than suitable replacement. Although both have a [...]

  9. [...] would be the latter, but I would love to be wrong, especially if it meant I got the third volume of The Secret Notes of Lady Kanoko. [...]

  10. [...] self-possessed, and she has great insight into her classmates through observation (much like Lady Kanoko), except she knows nothing about [...]

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